06/18/2003 11:00PM

A sloppy work is better than none

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Needing a work for his filly and knowing the track condition wasn't going to get any better any time soon, trainer Rusty Arnold sent Final Round out Thursday morning for her final move before next Saturday's Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes.

Working in company with a maiden named Retroactive, Final Round drilled five furlongs in 1:00.65 over Belmont's sloppy main track.

"It was either I was going to work her or we weren't going to run," Arnold said. "She worked excellent. You never know how they come out of it till the next day, but she's acting super in the shed row. She's run in the slop twice. She won once and ran third in the Alcibiades. I think she handles it without a problem."

Final Round, a daughter of Storm Cat, won the Grade 3 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 1 and finished a good third behind Bird Town and Lady Tak in the Grade 1 Acorn on June 6.

Because of a variety of circumstances, Arnold will have to change riders for a third consecutive race. Edgar Prado will ride Final Round in the Mother Goose. Pat Day had ridden her in the Forward Gal and was named to ride in the La Troienne, but took off because of a back injury.

Jerry Bailey rode Final Round in the La Troienne, but was committed to ride Lady Tak in the Acorn, a race in which Gary Stevens rode Final Round. Stevens won't be in town for the Mother Goose, so Arnold has tabbed Prado.

Others expected to run in the nine-furlong Mother Goose are Roar Emotion, Spoken Fur, and Yell. Possible starters include Awesome Humor, Rhumb Line, and Virgin Voyage.

Kimmel runners getting ready

Miss Linda, a Grade 1 winner in North America and Argentina, is about a month away from returning to the races for trainer John Kimmel.

Miss Linda has been sidelined since last summer with a variety of ailments, including a hind ankle problem and a fractured knee. On Monday, she worked five furlongs in 1:01.71 with stablemate Outer Reef, a stakes-placed 2-year-old from 2002 who has not raced this year. Outer Reef had been sidelined with a torn back muscle.

"Two more works and she's ready to go," Kimmel said of Miss Linda. "We'll try to get a prep into her sometime before the Go for Wand."

The last time Miss Linda ran was in last summer's Go for Wand, where she finished fourth behind Dancethruthedawn. Miss Linda suffered her hind ankle problem in late summer, while training up to last September's Ruffian.

Hook and Ladder, another graded-stakes-winning Kimmel trainee who has had physical infirmities, has resumed training after undergoing a second surgical procedure to clear up a breathing problem.

Kimmel said he will know how effective the procedure is when he starts breezing Hook and Ladder. If he feels the colt is breathing satisfactorily, he'll remain in training. If not, he will be retired. Hook and Ladder is expected to stand at a New York farm when he is retired.

Kimmel has taken over the training of Greatness, a 4-year-old Mr. Prospector colt who last raced in the Deputy Minister Handicap at Gulfstream on Feb. 9, finishing seventh. Greatness, who had been so impressive in his first two starts last spring, had been trained by Allen Jerkens.

Englehart out on his own

Jeremiah Englehart, the son of leading Finger Lakes trainer Chris Englehart and a former assistant to trainers Mike Hushion and Ken McPeek, has gone out on his own. Englehart, 26, plans to start his first horse, Longingtobeme, in Sunday's $100,000 Mount Vernon Handicap for New York-breds.

The nine-furlong race is scheduled for the turf, but a gloomy weekend forecast could transfer the race to the main track. Englehart said Longingtobeme would run only if the race remained on the turf.

Englehart claimed Longingtobeme for owners Bill Hayes and Tom O'Grady on June 11 for $35,000, out of a race in which Longingtobeme finished third. Longingtobeme finished third in the Mount Vernon last year.

"I saw they nominated her to the Mount Vernon, and usually if you have a horse that's on the downside you wouldn't nominate to a stakes," Englehart said when asked why he claimed Mount Vernon.

Englehart has three horses in his stable, including Madison's Pleasure and Good Man Sam. He also expects to get a Brazilian-bred filly who is not due in for another month. Englehart said he and his father are in the early stages of putting together a syndicate of New York-breds. The better ones will race on the New York Racing Association circuit, the lesser ones with Chris Englehart at Finger Lakes.

Handicapping tournament offers $60,000

Belmont Park will host its 2003 spring handicapping challenge this weekend. Having sold out its 200 entries, the tournament will distribute a total of $60,000 in prize money, with top prize of $25,000 going to the winner.

The top four finishers will be eligible for the Daily Racing Form-NTRA National Handicapping Championship next January in Las Vegas.

Contestants must wager on 10 races each day, choosing from races conducted at Belmont and Monmouth Park. At least five wagers must be made on Belmont races.

The contestant with the highest bankroll after Saturday will receive $1,000. There will also be a $1,000 prize to the contestant with the highest number of winning tournament wagers.